When the House of Representatives passed their version of a health care reform bill last Saturday, the shocker for me was the Stupak amendment (full text here) which would bar anyone using the new tax credits from purchasing policies that include coverage for abortion procedures.
This amendment accomplishes exactly what many in the right wing say they fear from reform legislation: government coming between doctors and their patients. Further, since the tax credits – subsidies – are available only to those whose employers do not provide health coverage, the limitation falls primarily on the shoulders of poor women. And, obviously, it singles out women for discrimination.
There are exemptions in the Stupak amendment for pregnancy as a result of rape or incest and for “physical disorder, physical injury or physical illness that would...place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed.” Note well that placing a woman's health in danger is not among the exemptions.
But why are we even discussing this? Abortion is legal. There is no place in any legislation for any restriction on it.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Roman Catholic Church in America has forcefully injected itself into the health care debate.
"'The Catholic bishops came in at the last minute and drew a line in the sand,' said Laurie Rubiner, vice president for public policy at the abortion-rights advocacy group Planned Parenthood. 'It's very hard to compete with that,'" she told the Journal.
Lest we forget, the Journal also reminds us:
“The bishops have a history of political activism. In the 2004 presidential race, some bishops said they would refuse to grant communion to Democratic nominee John Kerry, a Catholic who favored abortion rights. In 2005, the bishops' conference backed efforts by then-President George W. Bush and Republican lawmakers to intervene in the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case. But rarely has the church entered the fray with such decisive force [as now].”
Whether the Catholic Church withholds sacraments is not a public issue, nor was the Terri Shiavo case – until the government and the Church made it one.
With all that in mind, here are some questions I've been thinking about:
Since Roe v. Wade is still in force and abortion is a legal medical procedure, how can Congress pass legislation that forbids federal funding of it? In doing so, are they not violating their oath of office? Would not such a law be automatically null?
Given the admitted lobbying efforts of the Catholic Bishops in support of the Stupak amendment, doesn't the amendment – the government – force non-Catholics into living by the edicts of the Catholic Church and therefore violate the doctrine of separation of church and state?
How is the Stupak amendment different from, for example, disallowing food stamps to be used for the purchase of pork in keeping with Jewish and Muslim law?
Has anyone else noticed that the Stupak amendment sponsors and the Catholic Bishops are all men deciding what women can do with their bodies?
Is Congress really going to allow the rest of the health care reform debate to revolve around an issue that has no place in government?
There is a petition addressed to President Obama, House Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid requesting that the Stupak amendment be removed from health care reform legislation. You can make your voice heard here:
The newest episode of Life (Part 2) is available online – about age and spirituality this time. Here is host Bob Lipsyte's monologue from the program:
You can watch the entire episode here.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Chocolate Love